The Jetsons, here we come — you can now buy a flying car, if you can afford one. The Terrafugia Transition Roadable Aircraft can take off from an ordinary road and rise into the air, allowing flying cars to go right over a sluggish traffic jam. It is designed to drive like a car and fly like a plane. In the air, it can reach speeds of up to 115 miles per hour — and you won’t get a speeding ticket. The car can rise to a height of 10,000 feet, and can travel for 400 miles. On land, it even gets reasonable gas mileage — about 30 miles per gallon. The first model flying car, called the Transition, will be available for purchase by the end of next year — it will cost around $194,000.
The Terrafugia’s wings fold back quickly, in just 30 seconds, for road use, and for parking in a garage. Fortunately, it fits inside a standard garage — but standard garages do not offer the same security features that self storage facilities do. According to Edmunds.com, a car is stolen in the U.S. every 24 seconds. It is especially easy to break into the average residential garage, since garage door openers have an emergency release lever. The lever is meant to be used if you are locked in or out of your garage during a power outage — you can use a clothes hanger to reach up and pull the lever. Unfortunately, so can burglars — some websites devoted to this topic say that it is possible to break into the average garage in 10 seconds or less.
Burglars cannot break into a self storage facility’s garage nearly so easily. Vehicles stored in professional facilities are kept secure by 24-hour video surveillance, electronic gates and individual PIN codes for each unit, and sometimes even by biometric security. A self storage facility cannot protect a Terrafugia while it is in use, however, which is why you may want to invest in a good insurance policy, as well.
At first, the developers of the Terrafugia (a group of MIT graduates) were not sure whether the FAA would approve their car for use in the air — it is 110 pounds over the limit for light sports aircraft. But they argued, and apparently convinced regulators, that the extra weight was due to features such as airbags, crumple zones, and roll cages, that were meant to make the car safe for use on roads and in the air. Ordinary light sports aircraft do not need airbags and other such safety features, but the Terrafugia had to have them, in order to meet federal motor vehicle standards for road use.
The Terrafugia also has its own special safety features meant for flying — it has a full vehicle parachute that can be deployed if the engine fails.
Regulators agreed with developers that the new flying car should not be penalized for meeting federal safety standards, and the FAA approved the Terrafugia for flying this week. However, driver/pilots will have to be licensed both for roads and the air. But because the Terrafugia is classified as a light sports aircraft, licensing requirements will not be as strict as for ordinary pilot licenses. Less documentation is needed, and potential pilots will only need to log 20 hours of flying time to get their licenses.
“Now THAT’s how you beat traffic jams: world’s first flying car is cleared for take off.” The Daily Mail (UK). June 30, 2010.
Pardilla, Caroline. “Top 10 ways to steal a car (and how to defend against them).” Edmunds.com.